MPs to debate assisted dying bill

Posted On: 
9th June 2015

MPs will debate the introduction of assisted dying, after a Labour backbencher announced he would bring forward a bill on the issue. 

Rob Marris, the MP for Wolverhampton South West, was drawn first in last week’s Private Member’s Bill ballot, meaning he gets priority on Commons time for a piece of legislation of his choosing.

His bill will be “essentially the same” as the legislation proposed by Labour peer Lord Falconer in the last parliamentary session.

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The proposals would allow terminally-ill individuals with six months or less to live to request assistance to end their own lives, subject to the approval of doctors who would have to attest to the patient’s state of mind.

Lord Falconer's bill passed its second reading in the House of Lords, but ran out of parliamentary time before it could reach the Commons.

A Populus survey of 5,000 people, conducted in March, found that 82% of people supported Lord Falconer’s proposals.

He said he was "absolutely delighted" and that it was "fantastic news" a new bill would be introduced to the Commons.

Mr Marris said it was time for MPs to confront the issue.

“The public are clearly in favour of a change in the law and it is right that Parliament now debates this issue,” Mr Marris said.

“Alongside the vast majority of the public, I am in favour of terminally ill people who are of sound mind having choice at the end of life. It is a choice that I would want for myself and I do not think we should be denying this to people who are facing an imminent death.

“The House of Commons has not voted on this issue for almost twenty years. While the prospects of getting the law changed are difficult without official Government support, this is an opportunity to show we in Parliament are not ducking our responsibility to the public and I look forward to continuing the case for a compassionate assisted dying law.”

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, which campaigns for people to be given the right to die, welcomed the news.

“It is great news that the House of Commons will now begin a debate on assisted dying which the public demand but have been denied because of parliamentary procedure. I welcome Rob Marris’s commitment to show compassion to dying people and give choice at the end of life.”

Another campaign group, Living and Dying Well, criticised the bill, saying it contained "very few explicit safeguards". 

It also argued there had been "no serious evidence" that the law was in need of change.